Dylan Merriman puts it plainly when describing the vibe in his office up until recently: "There was friction."
Then came Metamorphosis.
Nicole and Michael Karnowski are putting the human in human relations by helping employees and bosses explore their relationships with one another and, in turn, themselves.
"Our heart is to help small businesses have better inter-office dynamics," Nicole explained. "The whole premise is if you get along better, you know about one another, that's going to lead to greater productivity and greater results."
Now in its fourth year, the Duluth-based coaching, consulting and training firm (the full name of the company is Metamorphosis CCT) has found its niche helping folks become more mindful of how and why they operate one way while others may work in their own style.
The couple started working with Merriman's American Family Insurance agency on Piedmont in August, and have since held two followup trainings - with another set for June - in addition to meeting on a weekly basis.
It has been one part self-realization: "I always thought I came off as this happy-go-lucky, you know, great boss," Merriman said. "Then you look at yourself through this training and start to say, 'Hey, I might be a little bit pushy.'"
And one part growing more conscientious: "Dylan and his team have been able to modify their conversations in a way that speaks another person's language," Michael said.
That also means meeting customers, not just coworkers, where they are (Michael calls it being a "personality ninja"). But it starts in the office.
Office manager Toni Alleman, who has been with Merriman's agency since it opened just over three years ago, said the transformation has been "night and day" in how people interact.
"I was just focused on the tasks and not how they were perceiving what I was saying," she said. "Even at home with my kids it's different. I think to myself - they don't see things the way I do."
Cindy Markkula, who joined the agency a few months ago, said she's able to be on the same page as others - or at least realize what page someone else might be on.
"It can be very difficult, sometimes, to deal with certain people or they may have a really different personality," she said. "What can I do with my personality to contribute to the workplace - not sit back so much but actually be willing to speak up about how I feel?"
Metamorphosis has worked with a number of employers in the Northland, including the Carlton Wellness Center and Virginia Public Schools. Since setting up shop in August 2015 they found their initial approach was too broad, and after enough feedback the Karnowskis found what clients wanted most was, put simply, to just get along with the people they spend entire days with but often barely know.
From there comes the end goals of "employee retention, employee productivity and customer satisfaction."
It usually takes more than one training, more than one followup, and plenty of feedback forms, but the Karnowskis say it's worth it.
"It really has to come with part of the culture," Nicole said. "It's going to give you a greater return on investment, and everyone is happier."